"The Internet is like a river..."

Jason Smith, a Google trainer from New Jersey recently came to our school.  As he was talking about the amazing-ness of the Internet, he offered pearl of wisdom which has become my new mantra.  

In my new position as the library media specialist at the high school and middle schools, I am constantly trying to learn more, to keep up with what is new, find out what's happening at other schools, as well as stay informed of local, national and world news.  

I follow blogs on Feedly, check social media posts in my professional learning networks, read book reviews and play with Google apps and recently discovered web sites. I Tweet, Instagram, and Facebook.   I check and recheck my emails.  Heaven forbid, I not answer one the minute it comes in.  

As an overachiever, I never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.  I am constantly on a device, usually my phone. 

Some might argue I am "addicted to my phone." (Those people include my father and my husband).   I would argue that I have become addicted to information and the immediacy of it.   I get home from school and am checking my phone as my son asks to play Legos. When I wake in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep,  I know I shouldn't but I check my phone.

Jason stated that  "The Internet is like a river, you can get in and out as you please.  Good information is constantly flowing because of reposts and shares." This one sentence has truly changed how often I pick up my phone, especially when I am at home.

The Internet is truly amazing but so is the life around us.   Balance is essential.

Thank you Jason for making this over-achiever realize that it is okay to put the phone down,
I am not going to miss anything.

Keyboard Shortcuts

 It is important that we are teaching students best practices.  Keyboard shortcuts make work so much more efficient and productive.  I created posters on Canva to highlight a shortcut of the week on social media and to hang in the libraries and computer labs.  We also made them in to table toppers with $.99 frames from Ikea.  

My Feedly

There are plenty of ways to keep up with news and your favorite blogs.  

Feedly is my preferred aggregator.  I can organize it my feed and it automatically provides me with an organized list of the blogs, RSS feeds and news posts from when when I last checked in. 

A nice feature is once marked "Done", the next time only new posts will appear in the updated feed.  Once a day, I check in to Feedly on my phone, iPad or computer, and browse the latest content. Feedly allows me to easily save articles and to share on social media. 

If you are just getting started with Feedly or another aggregator, here are some suggestions. I am constantly adding to this list but this is what is in my Feedly right now.

Catlin Tucker: Blended Learning & Technology in the Classroom
Class Tech Integrate
EdTech Roundup
EdTech Teacher
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
Edutopia (RSS) 
Free Technology for Teachers
Practical Ed Tech
Principal of Change
Shake Up Learning
Teachers.Tech (YouTube tutorial videos)
Techlearning (RSS)

The Keyword The Official Google Blog
G Suite Update Alerts
Google Education
Teacher Tech (Alice Keeler!!)

The Daring Librarian
Endless Possibilities
Expect the Miraculous
Knowledge Quest
A Media Specialists Guide to the Internet
The Modern Librarian
Nerdy Book Club
OverDrive Blogs
Teen Librarian Toolbox

Uploads from TED

Questioning Grades: Mastery vs Effort

"What should a grade represent?" This simple question led to many questions such as...
  • Should a grade represent only mastery of content and skills?
  • Should effort be graded?
  • If effort is graded should it be a separate grade or part of the entire grade?
  • What does effort look like?  Is it homework? Participation in class? Observations by the teacher? 
  • Does the student who does little work but easily masters content and skills be "penalized" because of their lack of work? 
  • Should those students who easily master content and skills be asked to do more extensive projects thus setting the bar higher to get the same grade as other students?  
For teachers in math and science, grading should probably be based on solely on mastery of content and skill.  Arts teachers might be more likely to consider grading effort in a variety of ways from growth, daily observations and rubrics.

At first I thought grading effort was a good idea but then I thought why?

WHY would we grade effort? 
 What is the purpose?  

For Parents? Colleges?
Are we trying to simply acknowledge the work ethic in a student?  Is a grade the best way? I am not a college admissions expert but I would think a letter of recommendation from a teacher about a student's character and work ethic would be more insightful than a number or letter grade for effort.  If it is to appease parents, would a phone call or conference be more meaningful?

Is grading effort meant to motivate students?  Let's face it, students who are motivated by a grade are already working hard. 

Is a grade the best way to motivate reluctant students?  Or are students better motivated by building a relationships with students and giving personal feedback.  Maybe it is allowing students to select topics they are personally interested in to demonstrate the skills and content that are to be mastered.

Full disclosure, I am writing this post as a teacher who has worked almost two decades, teaching an average of 30 classes and more than 500 students a week.  And I have never given a grade.  I have graded student work on occasion but library/research/digital literacy is not a separate grade on the report card.

So how did I keep students interested and motivated?  Well, obviously younger grades are easier to motivate - for the most part, they want to "keep their dear teacher happy."   The older grades (4, 5 & 6) are where it was sometimes tricky.  

What worked for me was building a relationship based on respect with the students. Students were clear on my expectations from the very beginning.  I also made sure the students knew that I genuinely cared about them and that I wanted them to succeed.  

My lessons were constantly changing with the students.  I would talk to students about their interests and rework lessons to incorporate those interests in to the skills I was teaching.  I also provided choice whenever I could.    

When teaching research skills, students chose a topic of interest to them, I guided them but did not dictate how the research was to be done and let them choose how they were to present their new knowledge.  I found that allowing students to think SOME of a lesson was their idea gave them a sense of ownership and, in turn, motivated them.  When students were invested in a project they were genuinely interested in, they seemed to go above and beyond, even though they knew I wasn't going to give them an official grade.  

I asked students to self-evaluate the product, their process and how I presented the project. They liked that I was asking them for genuine feedback as to how I could improve a project or lesson for future students. 

Students know I cared most about them learning the process of research and I did provide each student with personal feedback.  I am not saying what I did was perfect but it worked for my students.   I also know that this would not work for certain content areas or even certain students or grade levels.   

What I do know was that, for me, talking to students personally, emailing their parents with words or encouragement, praise of genuine concern went a long way... and motivated students better than any grade would.   

Instagram for the Library

Trying to manage social media for my two libraries while also maintaining my personal accounts meant I needed to make some decisions...or my 5 year old son would never see me.  I have a Facebook account that is strictly my personal account.  I use Twitter for my own professional learning and to share information with teachers and students.
I also have a personal Instagram account and last month started Instagram accounts for both my school libraries - @lmslibrary @colonelslibrary.
 Instagram allows users to toggle between accounts without having to log out and  log back in. It also allows users to link multiple accounts to one Twitter account.

I have 3 main purposes for using Instagram for the libraries:
  1. To promote the library program.
  2. To share news and information about events and resources.
  3. To promote literacy.  At the high school level I am working on a #ebooksLHS showcasing ebooks that we have.   



Badges Are Not An Alternative to Library Media Specialist Certification!

I love to learn!!  As a school librarian there is ALWAYS something new. Professional opportunities abound on the Internet with online classe...